US Trade Panel Recommends Varying Solar Panel Import Restrictions

Members of the U.S. International Trade Commission on Tuesday made three different recommendations for restricting solar cell and panel imports on Tuesday, giving President Donald Trump a range of choices to address injury to domestic producers. The recommendations range from an immediate 35 percent tariff on all imported panels to a four-year quota system that allows the import of up to 8.9 gigawatts of solar cells and modules in the first year. The president’s ultimate decision could have a major impact on the price of U.S. power generated by the sun. Both supporters and critics of import curbs on solar products were disappointed by the proposals, which were unveiled at a public meeting in Washington. Trade remedies were requested in a petition earlier this year by two small U.S. manufacturers that said they were unable to compete with cheap panels made overseas, mainly in Asia. The companies, Suniva Inc and the U.S. arm of Germany’s SolarWorld AG, said Tuesday’s recommendations did not go far enough to protect domestic producers. “The ITC’s remedy simply will not fix the problem the ITC itself identified,” Suniva said in a statement. The company, which is majority owned by Hong Kong-based Shunfeng International Clean Energy, filed the rare Section 201 petition nine days after seeking Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in April. It had sought a minimum price on panels of 74 cents a watt, nearly double their current cost. One analyst said the stiffest remedy recommended, a 35 percent tariff on solar panels, would add …

California Wildfire Insurance Claims Top $3.3B

Property damage claims from a series of deadly October wildfires now exceed $3.3 billion, California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said Tuesday. The figure represented claims for homes and businesses insured by 15 companies and was more than triple the previous estimate of $1 billion. Jones said the number would continue to rise as more claims were reported. The amount of claims now reported means that the fires caused more damage than California’s 1991 Oakland Hills fire, which was previously the state’s costliest, with $2.7 billion in damage in 2015 dollars, according to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America. Forty-three people were killed in the October blazes that tore through Northern California, including the state’s renowned winemaking regions in Napa and Sonoma counties. They destroyed at least 8,900 buildings as more than 100,000 people were forced to evacuate. It was the deadliest series of fires in California history. Several dozen buildings were also damaged or destroyed in fires in Southern California’s Orange County. “Behind each and every one of these claims … are ordinary people, Californians who lost their homes, lost their vehicles, in some cases whose family members lost their lives,” said Jones, a Democrat who is running for attorney general. Jones said there were just over 10,000 claims for partial home losses, more than 4,700 total losses and about 700 for business property. There were 3,200 claims for damaged or destroyed personal vehicles, 91 for commercial vehicles, 153 for farm equipment and 111 for watercraft. The figures do …

Pruitt to Put New Members on EPA Science Panels

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday he intends to replace the outside experts that advise him on science and public health issues with new board members holding more diverse views.   In announcing the changes, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt suggested many previously appointed to the panels were potentially biased because they had received federal research grants. The 22 boards advise EPA on a wide range of issues, including drinking water standards and pesticide safety.   “Whatever science comes out of EPA shouldn’t be political science,” said Pruitt, a Republican lawyer who previously served as the attorney general of Oklahoma. “From this day forward, EPA advisory committee members will be financially independent from the agency.”   Pruitt has expressed skepticism about the consensus of climate scientists that man-made carbon emissions are the primary cause of global warming. He also overruled experts that had recommended pulling a top-selling pesticide from the market after peer-reviewed studies showed it damaged children’s brains.   Pruitt said he will name new leadership and members to three key EPA advisory boards soon — the Science Advisory Board, Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, and the Board of Scientific Counselors.   It was not clear from the EPA’s media release if all current board members serving out their appointed terms were immediately dismissed. EPA’s press office did not respond to messages seeking clarification on Tuesday.   As part of his directive, Pruitt said he will bar appointees who currently in receipt of EPA grants or who …

Britain Accelerates Brexit Plans; Talks Also to Speed Up

Britain is accelerating preparations for “all eventualities” when it leaves the European Union, but both sides are hopeful an agreement on stepping up talks to unravel more than 40 years of partnership will be sealed soon. With only 17 months remaining until Britain’s expected departure, the slow pace of talks has increased the possibility that London will leave without a deal, alarming business leaders who say time is running out for them to make investment decisions. British and EU negotiators met in Brussels on Tuesday to try to agree a schedule for further divorce talks, with an initial proposal from the bloc to hold three more rounds before the end of the year not winning instant approval from London. The pressure has spurred the British government to step up its Brexit plans, employing thousands more workers and spending millions to make sure customs posts, laws and systems work on day one of Brexit, even without a deal on a future relationship. At a meeting with her ministers Tuesday, Prime Minister Theresa May was updated on plans for the tax and customs authority to add 3,000 to 5,000 workers next year and for spending of 500 million pounds ($660.45 million) for Brexit. Domestic preparations “Alongside the negotiations in Brussels, it is crucial that we are putting our own domestic preparations in place so that we are ready at the point that we leave the EU,” May’s spokesman told reporters. “The preparatory work has seen a significant acceleration in recent months. Departments …

Mexico GDP Shrinks Amid NAFTA Uncertainty, Disasters

Mexico announced Tuesday that its economy shrank 0.2 percent in the third quarter compared with the previous period amid uncertainty related to renegotiations of the North American Free Trade Agreement and local slowdowns caused by natural disasters.   Alfredo Coutino, Latin America director at Moody’s Analytics, said the contraction came after Mexico posted GDP gains of 0.7 percent and 0.6 percent in the first two quarters and confirms an expected deceleration in the second half of 2017.   “Investment decisions were affected by uncertainty over the possibility that NAFTA negotiations would break off,” Coutino wrote in a report. He added that monetary tightening and high inflation “restrained consumption,” while “activity was partially interrupted in cities affected by the two earthquakes in September and the hurricanes that struck the southern part of the country.”   The government’s National Institute of Statistics and Geography reported the contraction and said that GDP for the third quarter was 1.7 percent higher than in the same period last year.   Coutino forecast that Mexico’s economy will grow about 1 percent in the fourth quarter and hit about 1.8 percent on the year, down from 2017 and short of target.   …

Slow Flow of Human Migration May Have Doomed Neanderthals

What killed off the Neanderthals? It’s a big debate, and now a study says that no matter what the answer, they were doomed anyway.   Our close evolutionary cousins enjoyed a long run in Europe and Asia, but they disappeared about 40,000 years ago after modern humans showed up from Africa.   The search for an explanation has produced many theories including climate change, epidemics, or inability to compete with the modern humans, who may have had some mental or cultural edge.   The new study isn’t intended to argue against those factors, but just to show that they’re not needed to explain the extinction, says Oren Kolodny of Stanford University.   He and colleague Marcus Feldman present their approach in a paper released Tuesday by the journal Nature Communications.      They based their conclusion on a computer simulation that represented small bands of Neanderthals and modern humans in Europe and Asia. These local populations were randomly chosen to go extinct, and then be replaced by another randomly chosen population, with no regard for whether it represented the same species.   Neither species was assumed to have any inherent advantage, but there was one crucial difference: Unlike the Neanderthals, the modern humans were supplemented by reinforcements coming in from Africa. It wasn’t a huge wave, but rather “a tiny, tiny trickle of small bands,” Kolodny said.   Still, that was enough to tip the balance against the Neanderthals. They generally went extinct when the simulation was run more than …

Exxon Promises Air Pollution Controls in Settlement with US Government

ExxonMobil has promised to upgrade pollution controls at eight of its manufacturing facilities along the U.S. Gulf Coast under an agreement it reached with federal authorities. The petrochemical giant will spend about $300 million to install pollution controls at the plants to settle allegations that it violated U.S. environmental law by failing to properly monitor industrial flares at its petrochemical plants, resulting in illegal air pollution. The U.S. Justice Department, in a statement, said the Exxon facilities — located in Louisiana and Texas — will operate new air pollution control and monitoring technology to reduce the harmful emissions. “Once fully implemented, the pollution controls required by the settlement are estimated to reduce harmful air emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) by more than 7,000 tons per year,” the DOJ said in a statement. “The settlement is also expected to reduce toxic air pollutants, including benzene, by more than 1,500 tons per year.” The Justice Department describes VOCs as key components in the formation of smog, which can irritate lungs and inflame respiratory issues like asthma. Chronic exposure can lead to leukemia and adverse reproductive effects in women, the DOJ said. Exxon also will be required to spend $1 million on a project to plant trees in Baytown, Texas, and purchase a $1.5 million mobile air quality monitoring vehicle for use by Louisiana’s environmental protection agency. …

Water Up! Re-Think Your Drink

The suburbs of Washington are the setting for a pilot project to promote healthier eating habits, a partnership between leaders of the Latino community there and researchers at George Washington University. The “Water up Project” encourages the community to drink more water and reduce their consumption of sugary beverages. Faiza Elmasry reports. Faith Lapidus narrates. …

Kushner Partner All But Kills Plan for Fifth Ave Skyscraper

The co-owner of a Fifth Avenue skyscraper controlled by the family of Jared Kushner says demolishing the tower to build luxury apartments is not practical and the building will likely remain as offices.   Vornado Realty Trust CEO Steven Roth told investors on Tuesday that the Kushner family’s plan to raise billions from investors to rebuild the tower is “not feasible.” He added that “it’s likely that the building will revert to an office building.” The project drew criticism after media reports that the Kushner Cos. was negotiating with a Chinese insurer with ties to the ruling Communist Party, among other big foreign investors. Critics say such deals would raise conflicts of interest issues with Jared Kushner serving in the White House as an adviser to his father-in-law, President Donald Trump.   …

Україна піднялася на 4 позиції в рейтингу Світового банку Doing Business

Україна поліпшила свої позиції в рейтингу легкості ведення бізнесу за версією Світового банку Doing Business на чотири позиції і піднялася на 76-е місце із загалом 190. Щорічний рейтинг був оприлюднений 31 жовтня. Україна опинилася між Бутаном (75-е) і Киргизстаном (77-е місце). За даними експертів Світового банку, Україна продемонструвала зростання, зокрема, за такими пунктами: «отримання дозволів на будівництво», «захист міноритарних інвесторів» і «сплата податків». Загалом рейтинг Світового банку складається за 10 критеріями. Минулого року Україна посіла 80-е місце в рейтингу, піднявшись на три позиції порівняно з попереднім роком. Очолюють нинішній рейтинг Нова Зеландія, Сінгапур, Данія, на останніх місцях – Венесуела, Еритрея, Сомалі. Росія в нинішньому рейтингу піднялася на 35-у позицію. Мінекономрозвитку раніше прогнозувало, що Україна може піднятися в рейтингу легкості ведення бізнесу від Світового банку Doing Business 2018 на 10 позицій – до 70-го місця, що потенційно може приносити до країни щороку додатково мільярд доларів інвестицій. Раніше про те, що Україна піднялась у рейтингу Doing Business, заявляв президент Петро Порошенко. …